Bishop Olmsted suffers reproach for Christ

Beloved children of God, we live in a sinful world and so, when we teach and live the truths of faith and morals taught by our Lord Jesus Christ, we will suffer reproach. Unfortunately, we will suffer reproach not only from persons who are formally outside the Church, but also from our fellow Catholics. It is surprising and appalling how often I read persons who claim to be Catholic, not only teaching doctrinal error thereby leading others into grave sin, but also reproaching anyone who dares to teach the teaching of Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium. I myself have been subject to many personal attacks solely because I taught something on a matter of faith or morals that another Catholic thinks is incorrect, or doesn’t want to hear because it reveals his or her own grave sins.

Bishop Olmsted of the Phoenix diocese has condemned a recent direct abortion at a Phoenix hospital, St. Joseph’s of Catholic Healthcare West. He condemned the policy and actions of that hospital to perform direct abortions, perform direct sterilizations, and distribute contraception of every kind. And because the administrators of that hospital refuse to change their policies to be in accord with Catholic teaching against grave sin, he used his authority as local Ordinary to rule that the hospital is not a Catholic hospital. This teaching of the Bishop is certainly the teaching of the Church. Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium have always condemned abortion, sterilization, and contraception. This teaching is the teaching of Christ. And the action taken by the Bishop against the hospital is well within his proper exercise of authority as an Apostle of the Church. Scripture gives this example of an Apostle not merely teaching, but taking corrective action against those who sin without repentance:

[2 Thessalonians]
{3:10} Then, too, while we were with you, we insisted on this to you: that if anyone was not willing to work, neither should he eat.

{3:14} But if anyone does not obey our word by this epistle, take note of him and do not keep company with him, so that he may be ashamed.

[Titus]
{3:10} Avoid a man who is a heretic, after the first and second correction,
{3:11} knowing that one who is like this has been subverted, and that he offends; for he has been condemned by his own judgment.

Bishop Olmsted has done the same. He is teaching and acting in accord with the teaching of Christ and the authority given to him by Christ. Therefore, whoever reproaches Bishop Olmsted in this matter is reproaching Christ.

And this is what is meant by the title of this blog: improperium Christi, the reproach of Christ. For when we are reproached by anyone for teaching truth and doing good, we are reproached for the sake of our Lord. And in truth, whoever reproaches someone for teaching truth or doing good is reproaching Christ.

[Matthew]
{10:14} And whoever has neither received you, nor listened to your words, departing from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet.

[Mark]
{9:36} “Whoever receives one such child in my name, receives me. And whoever receives me, receives not me, but him who sent me.”

[John]
{12:48} Whoever despises me and does not accept my words has one who judges him. The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him on the last day.
{12:49} For I am not speaking from myself, but from the Father who sent me. He gave a commandment to me as to what I should say and how I should speak.
{12:50} And I know that his commandment is eternal life. Therefore, the things that I speak, just as the Father has said to me, so also do I speak.”

{13:20} Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives anyone whom I send, receives me. And whoever receives me, receives him who sent me.”

{14:24} Whoever does not love me, does not keep not my words. And the word that you have heard is not of me, but it is of the Father who sent me.

If a Bishop teaches non-infallibly, or expresses a theological opinion, or makes a decision, a faithful Catholic might disagree without sin by giving a considered reason for his disagreement, based on the teachings of Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium. But no one is justified in treating a Bishop (or anyone else) with ridicule, contempt, and malice for any reason, even if he is perhaps mistaken in some way.

As for the specific case of Bishop Olmsted, he has taught nothing but the teaching of the Church on this topic of abortion, sterilization, and contraception. And his action was relatively mild compared to the gravity of the offense. For the hospital has been performing direct abortions and distributing abortifacient contraception. Abortion is a form of murder. A hospital that murders and formally cooperates with murders, in this case as a matter of policy approved by their administrators and their ethics committee, cannot be considered to be a Catholic hospital.

Many Catholics have been using the internet to make personal attacks on the Bishop because he taught and acted in accord with the teachings of Christ. In truth, without any exaggeration, they are reproaching Christ. Their words about Bishop Olmsted are implicitly about Christ. For whatever you do to the least of the brothers of Christ, you do to Christ (Mt 25). If you act with love toward anyone, you act with love toward Christ. An atheist might even achieve salvation by acting with true selfless spiritual love toward his neighbor, even while not believing in God, because such acts are implicitly directed toward Christ. But similarly, if you act with hatred, malice, contempt, scorn, ridicule or the like toward anyone — even a Bishop with whom you disagree — you are acting in that way toward Christ.

Examples:

M.Z. Forrest, a contributor at Vox Nova, accuses Bishop Olmstead of lacking “intellectual honesty” and implies that he is lying by using the expression a “bald faced assertion” (a play on the common expression ‘bald faced lie’). He makes this contemptuous remark: “Well isn’t that special? Bishop Olmsted believes that medical professionals are incompetent to diagnose medical situations.” By treating Olmsted with contempt, he is treating Christ with contempt. And he is undermining the teaching of Christ that direct abortion is always gravely immoral. And he is reproaching Christ.

Michael Sean Winters at National Catholic Reporter also reproaches Bishop Olmsted with contempt and ridicule. He calls the Bishop’s decision “reckless” and “simply cruel, unspeakably cruel.” He calls the Bishop’s words and actions creepy: “That’s just creepy on his part.” His words are a contemptuous personal attack on an Apostle of Christ: “A priest friend told me he thought Olmsted was acting like a teenager when they first get behind the wheel of a car. A teenager is acutely aware of his lack of power, but when placed behind the wheel, he gets a rush of power and drives like a mad man. Olmsted is one of those bishops who, like Canute, stands before his throne ordering the waves back. His voice gets louder as the waves get closer, and he is incapable of recognizing the ridiculousness of his position.”
This kind of rhetorical scornful description is not a theological argument, but a reproach of Christ.

The Bishop is not misusing his authority, but exercising it with restraint and in accord with the eternal moral law. It is certain online commentators who are misusing the power of the media, and in such a manner as to defend and promote that type of murder called direct abortion.

In addition, the editors and publishers in charge of the above publications, by allowing this type of contemptuous treatment of Bishop Olmsted and of the teaching of the Church, are guilty of formal cooperation.

When I read the words of fellow Catholics treating Bishop Olmsted with ridicule, contempt, and malice, I remember the words of Sacred Scripture about the reproach of Christ:

[Hebrews]
{11:24} By faith, Moses, after growing up, denied himself a place as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,
{11:25} choosing to be afflicted with the people of God, rather than to have the pleasantness of sin for a time,
{11:26} valuing the reproach of Christ [improperium Christi] to be a greater wealth than the treasures of the Egyptians. For he looked forward to his reward.

[1 Peter]
{4:14} If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you will be blessed, because that which is of the honor, glory, and power of God, and that which is of his Spirit, rests upon you.

[Psalm 68] (69)
{68:5} Those who hate me without cause have been multiplied beyond the hairs of my head. My enemies, who persecuted me unjustly, have been strengthened. Then I was required to pay for what I did not take.
{68:6} O God, you know my foolishness, and my offenses have not been hidden from you.
{68:7} Let those who wait for you, O Lord, the Lord of hosts, not be shamed in me. Let those who seek you, O God of Israel, not be confounded over me.
{68:8} For because of you, I have endured reproach; confusion has covered my face.
{68:9} I have become a stranger to my brothers and a sojourner to the sons of my mother.
{68:10} For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproached you have fallen upon me.

by Ron Conte

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